Isaac knocks out power to New Orleans Navy base


City’s VA hospital opens, but clinics close across several states.

Power outages caused by Hurricane Isaac in the New Orleans area Wednesday affected more than 125,000 people and forced the Joint Reserve Base at New Orleans Naval Air Station in nearby Belle Chasse to resort to generator power. But the Veterans Affairs Department hospital there still had power as of early afternoon.

The base in Belle Chasse was the only one of 11 Navy facilities in the Gulf Coast area whose power was knocked out by Isaac, according to Bill Doherty, a spokesman for Navy Region Southeast.

The VA hospital in New Orleans remained open Wednesday, but the department closed its regional benefits office there, as well as benefits offices in Biloxi, Miss.; Mobile, Ala.; and Fort Walton Beach and Pensacola, Fla.

VA clinics in Biloxi; Eglin and Panama City, Fla.; and Mobile Ala.; will be closed today. The department also shut down clinics in Baton Rouge, Bogalusa, Franklin, Hammond, Houma, Mandeville, Metairie, New Orleans, Slidell and St. John Louisiana through Thursday.

Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi closed Wednesday while in Florida, Eglin Air Force Base in Niceland and Tyndall Air Force Base in Panama City remained open. Army installations in Huntsville, Ala., and Fort Polk, La., also are open.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has deployed a large truck-mounted mobile emergency response center equipped with a satellite communications system and multiple radios to the Louisiana state emergency operations center in Baton Rouge to facilitate communications with first responders. A second vehicle was deployed to Alexandria.

FEMA also sent a smaller truck-mounted forward command center equipped with a satellite dish and radios for first responders to Baton Rouge, where it will be deployed in areas as needed.

Col. Wayne Shanks, a spokesman for the San Antonio-based U.S. Army North -- which provides support to civil authorities during disasters -- said the command has four teams from its defense coordinating elements on the ground in the Gulf states, but they have not received any requests from state officials for assistance. Shanks said the Army North Sentinel communications truck, which can provide satellite connections for 55 computers, is in Alexandria and probably will be moved to Fort Polk on Thursday.

The National Weather Service forecast heavy rain, dangerous storm surges and inland flooding from Isaac through Wednesday night, and city officials in New Orleans are using crowdsourcing to track the extent of flooding. On the city’s storm website officials are asking the public to report flooded streets, downed trees or broken traffic lights by calling the nonemergency 311 number.